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‘Shared Vision’ Drives Native Couple's Creation of Main Street Event Center

By the winter of 2015, the Norman, Oklahoma-based deejay couple Arvo Mikanen and Tracy Satepauhoodle-Mikanen logged countless weekend hours traveling to weddings, birthdays and other events. They then decided to take their side business one step further by hosting their own entertainment venue. Mikkanen, Kiowa and Comanche, and Satepauhoodle-Mikkanen, Kiowa and Caddo, knew there were no Native-owned entertainment venues in their area other than those owned by tribal casinos. They felt ready for the task.

They found a location to lease in Norman’s downtown business district, at 300 East Main. It was a prime location—6200 interior square feet with a covered patio outside the front entrance. Originally built in 1920, the brick building had been known as a garage in its prime. While they poured money into interior renovations, their landlord footed the bill for other upgrades, such as a new roof.

The workmen stripped tar and other old covering from one half of the roof, piling the stripped parts onto the other half. The pile of tar and soot grew into a 12-foot heap so heavy that it collapsed the roof, nearly taking all of the Mikkanens’ dreams along with it. Rains that followed only made matters worse, pouring into a hole estimated at 25 feet across.

“It was disheartening,” Satepauhoodle-Mikkanen said. “That sinking fear…sometimes you just give it your all, and it just wasn’t good enough. After that happened, it stopped everything. We thought that might just be the end of it.”

The Mikkanens had a lot of things keep them from continuing. Their daughter would soon graduate high school. Also, the two of them had day jobs, with Mikkanen being an attorney and Satepauhoodle-Mikkanen serving as interim director at the Jacobson House Native Art Center. Yet, with the support of friends, professional colleagues and members of the arts community, they decided to rebuild.

“I think the main reason is we both had a shared vision of what we wanted to do,” Mikkanen said. “Every now and then, life will throw a curve ball at you, and you’ve got to not give up. You’ve got to hang on to something that’s a dream of yours.”

Their dreams began with their love of music. For Mikkanen, dealing in music began with a side business, Sitting Wolf Productions, where he set up at powwows selling cassettes of Native music. Satepauhoodle-Mikkanen’s love of music began with collecting records, finding herself playing the tunes at childhood parties. She also grew up behind the drum as a “chorus girl,” a nickname for women who sing in support of Southern drums at powwows and other Native events.

Mikkanen also had experience with closed circuit television. This experience—combined with the passion for music that he and his wife shared—would get them involved as deejays.

“There’s nothing better to bring people together on a joyous occasion,” Satepauhoodle-Mikkanen said. “You can supply the happiness. You supply the memories. You supply the music. There’s no better feeling for that.”

Now, the event center is coming closer to returning to a reality. Main Street Event Center has already participated in downtown Norman’s monthly “art walks,” with Native artists featured prominently in live painting sessions. The center is also scheduled to be one of the venues for the upcoming Norman Music Festival. At press time, the Mikkanens prepare for a second chance at a grand opening on Friday, May 22.

“We’re in a better position than we were before,” Mikkanen said. “A lot of what’s inside now is all new and all refurbished. Although it’s set us aside for over a year, it’s now actually a better venue.”

The new space includes not only a ballroom, a bar and enough area to host a small concert, but also a screen that could accommodate a film festival. But the Mikkanens want to do more than provide a venue with an ideal downtown location. They want to create a setting for happiness, for memories, and for dreams fulfilled. In essence, they want to offer a unique experience.

“It’s unique because we would be giving you special attention,” Satepauhoodle-Mikkanen said. “We really care about what your event is, and how we can provide and make sure your event is the most special and most memorable.”
For more information, go to www.TheMainStreetEventCenter.com.